Beavers top Mammoths for USPBL title

By: Timothy Pontzer | All | Published September 10, 2017

 Members of the Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers hoist the trophy after winning the championship Sept. 10 at Jimmy John's Field.

Members of the Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers hoist the trophy after winning the championship Sept. 10 at Jimmy John's Field.

Photo by Sean Work

UTICA — Three months ago, Chris Newell found his club in last place. He made a vow that his squad would right the ship, win the United Shore Professional Baseball League pennant and take home the ultimate prize.

The Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers manager proved himself right Sept. 10 after his team topped the Westside Woolly Mammoths 5-2 in the USPBL title game Sept. 10 at Jimmy John's Field in Utica. A day after his birthday, Newell happily sported a freshly printed championship shirt that had been soaked through due to a Gatorade shower at the hands of his players.

“I wouldn’t be wearing this shirt if it wasn’t for the opportunity that (USPBL commissioner) Andy (Appleby) gave me,” Newell said during the postgame celebration. “I wouldn’t be able to represent this team of champions if they didn’t go out there and do their thing every single day. Even when it got tough, they grinded it out. We are products of our preparation and this is their win.”

Newell guided the Beavers to a final record of 29-23, earning both the regular-season pennant and a victory in the playoff finale. He called it redemption after falling short last year with a loss in the USPBL’s inaugural championship game.

The skipper cited his starting pitcher as the primary reason for the victory, praising Randy Wynne for his poise and production on the mound. A right-hander from San Diego, Wynne delivered on the big stage, tossing 114 pitches in a complete-game effort.

“He’s the best pitcher this league has ever seen. I couldn’t draw it up any better than to have him out there,” Newell said. “Every time he goes out, I sleep really well the night before.”

Like his manager, Wynne also found redemption after starting and losing last season’s title game.

“It meant everything to see him do well today, Randy has been the heart and soul of this team,” Newell said.  “Last year left a sour taste in his mouth and he has been dealing with adversity all year long. His grandmother died, someone he was really close with, and he went away for a week. I told him to take all the time he needed because I needed him to be ready for championship Sunday.”

Wynne set a single-game record by striking out 14 Mammoths. The Beavers ace only allowed three hits and one walk.

“All of my pitches were working today, my fastball, curveball, change-up and slider,” Wynne said. “I got out there and warmed up nice and early. I was really excited for the moment and was ready for it.”

One of three Beavers to return to the roster from last season, Wynne was thrilled to rectify the 2016 championship defeat.

“In a big spot like this you can’t let it get too big, but I love to be the guy and want to have the ball in a situation like this,” Wynne said. “It meant the world to win after starting that game last year. My teammates are some of my best friends, and it was huge to get them the ring today.”

The USPBL playoff format handed Birmingham-Bloomfield an automatic place in the final after posting the top regular-season record. The Mammoths earned their berth by winning playoff contests Sept. 8 and 9 over the league’s two other members. Therefore, the Beavers were in their first game since Sept. 4.

“To be honest, at first I didn’t have a good feeling about the long layoff,” Newell said. “We had the bye last year, and it obviously didn’t work out. It definitely benefitted our pitching staff which won us the game, but I thought it would hurt our hitters.”

Newell’s club squashed his concerns by registering 12 hits. Thomas Roulis started things off with a triple in the bottom of the third, leading to an RBI single for DonAndre Clark II. Brandon Rawe followed with an RBI double to put the Beavers up 2-0 after three.

The Mammoths did not register a hit until the fifth inning. Westside’s first and only scoring play occurred in the seventh as Alex Abbott notched a two-run home run.

“It’s always important to get out to a good start and helps when you can score first,” Newell said. “(Roulis) gets that triple and we just did what we needed to do. (Westside) climbed back into it, showing they’re a resilient ball club and tied it. But we knew we still had stuff left in the tank and that this was our year.”

Birmingham-Bloomfield responded in the bottom of the seventh as Hunter Wood delivered a RBI single. Nicholas Buckner followed with another RBI in the inning and the club tacked on a run in the eighth to seal the final scoreline.

Up 5-2, Newell briefly considered a reliever with Wynne’s pitch count already over 100. However, a brief discussion in the dugout led him to trusting his ace to close out the championship.

“After the eighth inning we talked about it and (Wynne) said ‘I’m good to go,’” Newell said. “He said, ‘I told you I’m going to get us here and win this thing.' He had the eye of the tiger, heck it was the eye of the Beaver. A good manager has to trust his players and just put them in a position to be successful.”